With only five regular season games remaining on its schedule, men’s tennis is focusing on the Atlantic 10 tournament.
Through more than two months of action, the Colonials (2-16, 1-2 A-10) have not had the season they hoped for, dropping 15 consecutive games early on and getting swept in their first conference matchup.
But players have not been entirely discouraged by the results. They said the challenges have hardened the team just in time to turn the season around and attempt to claim their sixth title in eight years.
“Everyone has been improving day by day,” senior Chris Reynolds said. “As we start to get closer and closer toward the conference tournament people start realizing that this is the ultimate goal and I just think everything will start clicking.”
GW has now won two of its last three matches, earning its first win of the season against Bethune-Cookman March 13. Last weekend, the Colonials split their results against two conference rivals, defeating Saint Joseph’s 5–2 before falling to Davidson 2–5.
Reynolds said the team was able capture its win over the Hawks because they had no expectations heading into the match.
“It was the first time I felt like everyone was taking care of their own business, but at the same time they were spreading out to other courts with a positive energy,” Reynolds said. “As a result that kind of just boosted the team.”
Even though the Colonials have won just two games this season, head coach David Macpherson said his squad’s focus on winning the A-10 tournament has not wavered.
“We believe that if our guys can get healthy and do their best we can do it so I wouldn’t say that the goal has changed,” he said.
Last season – in Macpherson’s first year in Foggy Bottom – the Colonials were knocked out of the A-10 tournament in the semifinal round for the first time in seven years, but still finished with the program’s best record since 2014.
This year, for his second time around, Macpherson – an native of Australia and a former professional coach – compiled a difficult non-conference slate. The Colonials competed against three nationally-ranked teams in hopes to better prepare for their A-10 schedule and eventual postseason matches.
Macpherson said the Colonials benefited from the tough schedule and that their recent success comes in part from what they had to work on in earlier, more difficult matches.
“We are playing at a very high level that if we played softer opposition I don’t think that they would be playing at this level,” Macpherson said. “It’s good to play players better than you because it requires you to dig deep and find a level of play that you wouldn’t before.”
Sophomore Jakub Behun said losses to teams like Stanford and UCLA taught him about both playing against top-level competition and playing through one-sided losses. As an individual, he has picked up nine wins so far – good for second on the team.
“What we can do right now is either cry about it or we can actually improve or focus on the conference tournament,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges GW faced early in the season – major injuries – has continued to plague the Colonials’ depth and consistency down their lineup. Sophomores Dennis Afanasev and William Tutecky – a duo that combined for 27 singles wins last season – have remained on the sidelines all season.
Instead, the Colonials have turned to their veterans, seniors Christos Hadjigeorgiou, Chris Fletcher and Reynolds – along with Behun – to cement the top of their lineup. Hadjigeorgiou leads the team with 12 singles victories and is the only player with a winning record this season.
Players said the short roster has allowed some teammates opportunities to play that might not have otherwise – a bonus for building the program.
“It sucks having injured players but because you know you’re better than some teams and you lose to them,” Reynolds said. “Besides from the injuries everyone is just giving such a huge effort into every match and every practice and is willing to help everyone out.”
With two games next week, the Colonials said they will be taking on their final opponents full steam ahead. Reynolds said they will continue to play at 100 percent effort for the rest of the season and giving up is not an option as his collegiate career comes to a close.
“I was hoping for a lot more like a season that we had last year, but the way I look at it is performance are a rollercoaster,” Reynolds said. “There’s ups and there’s downs but as long as we keep on improving and getting to a higher level that’s what’s counts.”
The Colonials will return to action in a home game against Saint Francis April 6 at noon.